History not on U.S. team's side as it hosts women's World Cup

Home team has never won

10 squads will chase title

Lacrosse

June 23, 2005|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

As the four-time defending champion, the United States may be favored to win another women's lacrosse World Cup over the next 10 days at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, but the team will have to overcome the long-standing misfortune of the host team.

In the six previous International Federation of Women's Lacrosse Associations World Cups dating to 1982, the home team has never won. The United States played at home only once before and that was the only year it lost -- 1986, in Philadelphia.

Australia won that year. Since then, the Aussies have been relegated to second place four straight times by the United States in the event held every four years. Of course, they are looking to keep the home-field jinx alive for one more Cup.

"You feel the pressure on your home ground," said Australia head coach Max Madonia, an assistant coach twice before. "I think it's just expectations, but I'm not quite sure."

U.S. coach Sue Stahl, whose team opens with England tonight at 8 at the Naval Academy's Glenn Warner Soccer Facility, said the hoopla surrounding the event can be distracting for the home team.

With a lot of family and friends close by, she said, it can be hard to remain focused on the competition.

"If you can't focus and separate the social part from the actual games part, sometimes the line gets confusing and you lose your focus and concentration," said Stahl, in her fifth World Cup as U.S. coach.

"At this level, when everybody is so good, that's all it takes. It's the little things that generally make the difference."

The other teams in the 10-nation field -- Australia, England, Canada, Scotland, Wales, Germany, Japan, the Czech Republic and New Zealand -- are more isolated, being away from home, so it may be easier for them to concentrate.

Friends, family and fans have grabbed up all the tickets for pool play, and the first five days at the 3,000-seat Glenn Warner facility are sold out.

Tickets, however, remain available for crossover play at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium from Tuesday through the title match July 2.

Today's tournament opener at 10 a.m. features Japan vs. the Czech Republic. The opening ceremony will take place at 5:30 p.m. before the United States-England match.

Still, playing at home can have its advantages, and that's one of the reasons every coach in the tournament other than Stahl said the U.S. team is the favorite to win the Cup again.

Stahl said she isn't sure, "but we'd like to be the fan favorite because it's in the U.S."

England's coach, Lois Richardson, said the United States is favored "just by the nature of the number [of Cups] they've won and they have the most-experienced team."

"Their all-around game; it's very difficult to find an area of deficiency," said Wales coach Margaret Corbitt. "You have to look very hard to find an opportunity to really create a dent in their armor."

The team most likely to find that flaw -- if there is one -- is Australia. The coaches have given the Americans the edge, but most put the Aussies a close second.

The Australians, however, suffered a setback earlier this week when 14 players and two coaches came down with salmonella poisoning after eating apparently contaminated seafood Sunday night.

They all practiced yesterday, but remained a bit weakened.

Fortunately for the Australians, they have a bye today and don't begin play until tomorrow's 5 p.m. match with Wales. By the time the Australians meet the Americans in pool play Sunday at 2 p.m., they should be close to full strength.

This year's competition will include 10 teams for the first time -- up from eight in 2001 in High Wycombe, England.

New Zealand is making its international debut and the Czech Republic returns to the competition after missing the past two Cups.

As pool play begins today, the top five teams from the last World Cup competition are in Pool A: the United States, Australia, England, Canada and Wales. The other five are in Pool B.

Cup teams at a glance

Australia

Coach: Max Madonia (first World Cup)

Participation: Seventh appearance

2001 result: Second

Championship: 1986

Outlook: Familiar faces dot the Aussie lineup as nine of the 16 players starred at Maryland or Loyola, including Jen Adams, Sarah Forbes and Stacey Morlang. Australia has been plotting to take the cup back Down Under with six months of training. It won the last time the cup was contested on U.S. soil and should push the Americans.

Canada

Coach: Tracy Coyne (second World Cup)

Participation: Seventh appearance

2001 result: Fourth

Best finish: Third, 1982

Outlook: The Canadians have much more experienced players than with their last World Cup squad, which included high school players. Everyone on the roster has played college lacrosse in the United States, including Cup veterans Jennifer Johnson and Audrey Kelly. Coyne is the head coach at the University of Notre Dame.

Czech Republic

Coach: Martin Mrlik (first World Cup)

Participation: Second appearance

2001 result: Did not participate

Best finish: Eighth, 1993

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